Patagonia Alpine Houdini review

Part of Patagonia’s Spring 2014 collection, the Alpine Houdini is a waterproof jacket made for climbers. Based on the design of the Houdini, a trail running piece, Patagonia changed the fabric to create one of the lightest hardshell on the market.

We received the Patagonia Alpine Houdini in June and with one of the worst summers we’ve had in years, the jacket has seen plenty of rain, wind and stormy weather. It’s a nylon ripstop shell with laminate membrane. Full-zip on the front with storm flap, one internal chest pocket doubling up as stuff pocket, one draw cord for the hood and one for the hem. That’s it. I don’t think you can get more minimalist than that. I weighted the size S at 150g / 5.3oz. Crazy.

But lighter is not always better so lets detail a bit on the performance.

Patagonia Alpine Houdini front

The Patagonia Alpine Houdini was used mainly hiking and climbing, notably in the Lleida region. Warm weather but windy with a day ending in a spectacular thunderstorm followed by torrential rain. It has also lived in my pack for shorter climbing trips and got pulled out on numerous occasions for belaying or approach sections. Not to mention city use, cycling in the rain etc.

Protection from the elements

DWR treatment

The fully taped seams and the 10000mm water column resistance put the Patagonia Alpine Houdini in Hardshell territory. Plus Patagonia’s DWR treatment, which I know and trust from past experiences, completes the list. Walking in the rain, the water beads up nicely and the fabric never seems to wet through. It shows its limits at the end of a long rainy day but if you consider the ratio weight/protection, the Alpine Houdini is remarkable. The hood, helmet compatible, is easy to adjust. It uses the same single-pull mechanism as the Patagonia M10.

The Patagonia Alpine Houdini is obviously windproof as well. The elasticized cuffs and adjustable hem help keep the wind out and the warmth in. The hem also uses only one draw cord pull, on one side.

Elasticated cuff Hem draw cord

Breathability

From what I wrote above I’m sure you are guessing this one. Not much is the answer. It’s a hardshell, hardshells never display great abilities to let vapor escape. And that’s fine. I would say Neoshell or eEvent fare better than the Alpine Houdini. On longer approach routes the inside of the jacket would feel damp quickly with vapor condensing on the membrane. On a more positive note, the lightness of the Patagonia Alpine Houdini means it dries very quickly.

Chest pocket

Patagonia Alpine Houdini review: Conclusions

If you need the best emergency shell for climbing and approach this is it. The Patagonia Alpine Houdini provides uncompromising performance and best in class weight. It’s not inexpensive at $199/£150/€200 but you can find great deals right now. Some websites have it for as much as 50% off. At this price it’s a no brainer.